AMERICA’S MALAISE PART II
POLITICAL LYME DISEASE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP: BULL’S-EYE ON HIS SUPPORTERS
Jay Arrington October 24, 2018
Remember that stale gag of placing a “kick me” sign on someone’s back without the person’s knowledge? Garnered a few laughs at his or her expense and might have in some instances resulted in the person being hurt without ever knowing or recognizing the person/persons responsible for the attack. Moreover, there were perhaps some victims who didn’t mind so much provided that the ‘others’ suffered the same fate. Now it’s one thing to play a joke on an enemy, perceived or not, but to subject your friends and supporters to the gag is another.
In the age of Trump however, some Americans, the Trump base for instance, are walking around with the Erythema Migrans (EM) rash (bulls-eye), a major symptom of “Political Lyme Disease” on their backs with no idea they’ve been targeted or are, unwittingly or not, the victims of the very same gag Trump boast of pulling on the ‘others’. The very people that hoot and holler during those ridiculous, overtly racist, misogynistic, and anti-media Trump reality TV rallies are targets of the same politically motivated sniper attacks as the ‘others’, their perceived enemy.
Enemies aside, let’s examine the ways in which two (2) major components of the Trump base, the disabled and the white working class, which by the way are not mutually exclusive, have been fired upon thus far.
Notwithstanding Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s disgraceful mocking of a “10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother as part of the Trump administration’s family separation policy earlier this year, it’s been no secret regarding Trump’s personal and blatant animosity toward the disabled. According to a 2016 report in the Daily Beast Trump made fun of Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress when she appeared on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.
During a campaign rally in South Carolina Trump used then New York Post reporter Serge F. Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis as a laugh line in November 2015. To this day Trump denies having done so although video clearly shows Trump making robotic type movements simulating limited joint function, the main effect of the disease. And while they laughed there were no doubt, some in that audience dependent on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as their primary source of income. But with a proposed cut to disability of $70 billion dollars over the next ten years one can only wonder if Trump was laughing with the audience or laughing at them.
Because of changes in demographics disability rates particularly in rural America have soared over the past decade. Other contributing factors include, decreases in population and sparse diversity. Increases are more pronounced in working class areas and even worse in communities with older residents. Of the 102 counties in America with the highest rates which include Northern Michigan, portions of Missouri, Appalachia and the Deep South, only two were not rural areas. Sixteen of those counties being majority black and the rest being on average 90 percent white.
According to federal data, of the 10.8 million disabled workers and their dependents who benefit from SSDI a largely disproportionate number of them are more than likely to live in places with higher rates of injury from manual labor. Included also were rural and agricultural production regions, and the Rust Belt. Each of which overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016. And while 54% of disabled workers and their dependents live in these areas, Trump’s 2017 proposed budget cuts target this very constituency.
This also includes disabled adult children, widowers and more importantly women…widows of workers who by all accounts represent a major portion of the voting block that put Trump over the top in 2016 but are being targeted with a bull’s-eye nonetheless.
THE WHITE WORKING CLASS
The connection between disability and the lack of affordable healthcare could not be more apparent or direct especially where it concerns rural America and working-class whites. Enter then the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or as it’s more commonly known, Obamacare. Republicans, hell bent on repealing the ACA since its passage and despite many previous failed attempts under totally false pretenses that a replacement plan was in place appeared to have finally secured victory with the election of Trump but were ultimately thwarted by the late Senator John McCain R-Az.
Despite millions of blue-collar whites obtaining coverage through the ACA, they continued up to the 2016 election to voice the most strident opposition to the law. According to The Urban Institute non-college-educated whites who gained coverage between 2010-2015 outnumbered college-educated whites and minorities combined in each of the five key Rustbelt states that voted Obama in 2012 but voted Trump in 2016 including Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Most whites without a college degree also represented gains in coverage in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, key Trump states.
Of the three most crucial provisions of the ACA, Medicaid expansion appears to have had the greatest impact on rural America, the Rust Belt, and whites whose income is below $50k annually. And while republicans continue to dominate these areas politically, the ACA has played a significant role in breathing new life into states’ healthcare systems struggling to provide affordable healthcare especially in the “coal-miner country” of Appalachia overwhelmed by an opioid crisis that resulted in the most per-capita drug deaths in the country.
Furthermore, rural white America’s dependence on public insurance is long and well documented and though many elderly rural whites rely on Medicare a significant amount of non-elderly whites relies on Medicaid whose expansion under the ACA benefited a host of Kentucky residents. Medicaid expansion under the ACA allowed Kentucky to offer Medicaid to all low-income residents and helped to combat its own opioid epidemic. Yet despite the relief provided through the ACA most rural and working-class whites chose to back Trump who along with other republicans have vowed to do away with constituents’ healthcare.
President Lyndon Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man that he‘s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you‘re picking his pocket.” This is what Trump and his fellow republican cohorts have been doing. Telling their constituents that they are better than the ‘others’. The only thing about that is that while everyone is laughing at the bull’s-eye on the back of a perceived enemy no one notices the bull’s-eye on their own and since past is prologue they never will.